Chicago, IL (January 16, 2009) – In the waning days of the Bush Administration, there is some very good news for one endangered species in the Midwest. According to leading conservation advocates, a settlement between environmental groups and the federal government means that the government will reconsider its denial of strong legal protections for the Hines emerald dragonfly on 13,000 acres in Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest and the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.
While much of the dragonfly’s most important habitat lies on these national forest lands, the federal government had been unwilling to hold itself to the standard set by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had argued that the Forest Service would be more cooperative in protecting North America’s only endangered dragonfly species if the National Forest land were excluded from the species’ critical habitat designation. This meant that on these federal lands, the dragonfly and the wetlands that support them would enjoy less legal protection than on nearby private lands.
“The settlement prevented what could have been a dangerous national precedent in Michigan and Missouri,” said Andrew Wetzler, director of the Endangered Species Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The Forest Service has a legal obligation to do everything it can to cooperate with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Being a federal entity does not allow you to ignore the rule of law.”
The areas in question are some of the most important vestiges of the endangered dragonflies’ habitat. The agreement will immediately extend protections while the critical habitat designation is opened up for public comment in April. The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is the only dragonfly species on the federal endangered species list. It is also recognized as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a number of states in the Midwest. The species can only be found in small areas of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri.
The settlement reconciles a suit filed by NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, Michigan Nature Association, Door County Environmental Council (DCEC) and the Habitat Education Center. The following are comments from some of the groups involved in the settlement:
"The government's agreement to reconsider habitat for the Hine's emerald dragonfly is good news for the dragonfly," said John Buse, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "We look to the new administration to designate enough critical habitat for the species to recover from the brink of extinction."
“The Michigan Nature Association is proud to have worked to ensure that one of the state’s most prized threatened species has a chance,” noted Jeremy Emmi, executive director of the Michigan Nature Association. “Michigan’s North Country holds valuable habitat for this magnificent insect, but we need full protection over federal lands to ensure its survival. Private landowners overwhelmingly support the protections; it’s time for our federal government to do the same.”
“It has been a long battle to secure the endangered listing and ensure protection of critical habitat for the Hines Emerald Dragonfly,” said Door County Environmental Council executive director Jerry Viste. “Large areas of habitat that would have been deleted from protection, such as the Hiawatha National Forest and some smaller areas here in Door County would have had a severe impact on the recovery and protection of the Hines Emerald. We are proud, as an organization dedicated to resource protection, to have been a part of this litigation. A sincere thank you to the attorneys representing the Hines Emerald dragonfly’s survival.”
Hines Emerald Dragonfly Information
Size: The dragonfly is approximately 2.5 inches long with a 3.5-inch wingspan.
Appearance: The dragonfly has a dazzling metallic green body with shocking emerald-green eyes. It has yellow stripes on the sides of its body and a creamy-color to its wings. Males have a unique “clasper” at the end of their tails used to grab potential mates.
Flight: Dragonflies can fly at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. They can hover, fly backwards, change directions in mid-air, and are some of the most acrobatic fliers in the animal kingdom.
Habitat: These dragonflies rely on spring-fed marshes and meadows with high calcium carbonate levels in the water. Most of these wetland habitats have been drained for urban and industrial development.
- Most of these dragonflies’ life cycle is spent as a nymph: a dark, one-inch larva that has big teeth to capture prey, can move around using water jets, and lives in crawfish burrows. Nymphs are often described as looking like “hairballs with legs.”
- They live as nymphs for two to four years until they are ready to become adults. This process is much like a butterfly’s metamorphosis from a caterpillar. The nymphs shed their skin and an adult dragonfly emerges. Adults live for only two to six weeks.
- This species used to be far more widespread than it is today; it can no longer be found in Ohio, Alabama, or Indiana.
- Males and females have differently shaped sexual organs at the ends of their tails that allow copulation in flight.
- Additional information on the Hine’s emerald dragonfly can be found at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Web site: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/invertebrates/Hines_emerald_dragonfly/index.html